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Q • We have three children including a new baby. The older ones really eat a lot. What are some ways to cut down on our grocery bill and also encourage them not to throw out uneaten food? Any suggestions on how to possibly create something new out of leftovers?

From a reader • I have three brothers who ate a lot when we were growing up, especially when they reached their teenage years. I was the only girl. I remember my mom saying that the grocery bill was outrageous. We didn’t have many leftovers but when we did, my mom took any and made soups and stews. She also added potatoes to just about everything. This was always a hit because we all loved them and they filled us up. — Brandy Thomas in Raleigh, N.C.

From Jodie Lynn • Kids learn relatively early what they can get away with because we let them, and not eating leftovers is a learned behavior.

Since you have a new baby, your time and get-up-and-go level are probably pretty stretched thin as far as being able to plan and actually cook meals.

So first thing’s first, you’re going to have to make a new rule in your household that from now on, your kids are going to have to start eating leftovers.

They also need to know that not only is a baby time-consuming but that you need to try to rest when the baby is sleeping.

Therefore, the second rule is that they’re going to need to help in the whole process of meal preparation.

Gordon Ramsay has well-proven that children as young as 8 are quite capable of amazing cooking abilities.

While many of the contestants on his “MasterChef Junior” TV series are from ages 9 to 13, there has been at least one who was 8 and very talented (you can always share this with your kids to perhaps inspire them.)

Of course, you’re not going to be able to expect them to cook elaborate meals, but they can certainly pitch in and help, and with your guidance, they will get better over time.

In order to make easy but healthy meals, a good idea that may work out well in the beginning is to show them how to use a slow cooker.

Maybe add some of their favorite spices and side dishes to the leftovers and put everything in a crock pot or perhaps a large baking dish to go into the oven.

Don’t be scared to ask for help not only from the kids but also from your significant other.

Who knows, you might find that there’s a true chef among them.

The final suggestion is to buy in bulk when you go grocery shopping. The prices are usually much less when doing so.


My kids, ages 13 and 15, have been invited to a Halloween party by a girl they have known since elementary school. She and her family live in our neighborhood. My concern is that while she is also 15, our youngest son will be exposed to a group of older teens who might tease or maybe even bully him for being younger. I don’t know how to explain this to him without hurting his feelings. Should I let him go? Why or why not?

To share parenting tips or submit questions, write to: Parent to Parent, 2464 Taylor Road, Suite 131, Wildwood, MO 63040. Email:, or go to which provides a secure and easy way to submit tips or questions. All tips must have city, state and first and last name or initials to be included in the column.

Jodie Lynn is an award-winning parenting columnist, author of five books and mother to three children. She and her family live in Wildwood.